Earlier this year INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, Universum, the MIT Leadership Centre and The Head Foundation conducted a three-part study on the future of work. In the second part of this study, they wanted to understand what generation X, Y, and Z expect from workplace technology and the findings are quite insightful. The team surveyed more than 18,000 students as well as professions from around the world, covering generations X, Y, and Z.
Virtual reality will play a key role
Admittedly there is a gap between technological expectations of the three generations and reality. As far as the current working professionals are concerned, in the survey, two-thirds of the millennials that form ‘Gen Y’ and ‘Gen X’ think that their employer’s digital capabilities are important, but then only 40 per cent of them think that it’s up to the mark. It is only 3 percent of this combined working generation that uses any virtual reality application at work. The fact that 30 percent say that VR can change their work in the coming time speaks volumes about their expectations from work technology. In fact, if the student generation or Generation Z is to be talked about then they are apparently the most excited about VR and 42 per cent of them expect it to make a huge impact on the working life once they step in for work.
It goes without saying that the expectation of these three generations is going to have an impact on the augmented reality market. And, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Goldman Sachs estimates that it is likely to grow to US$80 billion in revenue by 2025.
We are living in a ‘gig’ economy. There’s opportunity in every corner of the world, which means people are leveraging technology and working as and when they want to. So, it’s no surprise that both the current and future employees expect technological innovations to give them more flexibility. 70 percent of respondents said that a flexible work arrangement does play an important role in their work life.
When it comes to being trained online it is, however, surprising that 69 percent of Gen Z that is yet to join workforce prefers being trained in-person as compared to 13 per cent who opted for an online model. 25 percent of Gen X, on the other hand, is in favor of online model. We can argue that their work schedule might be one of the reasons for their choice. Or do you think there’s more to it?
The challenge ahead for employers
Are you as an employer prepared to meet the expectations of the three generations? A fifty-fifty chance, perhaps? Well, to better understand how you can bridge the gap you must be aware of the two main challenges that lie ahead of you. The first is ‘leadership gap’. The time has come to stop focusing only on the consumers and customers. Start treating your employees as customers too. The kind of energy and resources you divert to develop digital technology for a seamless customer experience must also be done for your employees. Let them come to work and enjoy the benefits of technology vis-a-vis the smart tools that they most vouch for. Then comes the second challenge which is ‘skills gap’. Your being able to retain talent will largely depend on how digitally enabling you are or how attuned you are to meet the needs of the working generations. Both challenges are signs that you should invest in technology and gain an edge since it will be a key differentiator. Subsequently, you will only benefit from it for you will then have a greater visibility to future employees (plus current workforce) and the fact that you will be able to hire top talent that has certain expectations from work technology.
Is it as easy as it seems?
While you may invest in the latest collaboration tools and integrate them into work, but what’s equally important is giving them an experience they were looking forward to. This brings us to a point where a little introspection is required: is it easy?
When you talk of Gen Zers one thing to keep in mind is that they are still studying and know little or nothing about what it is to be desk-bound for eight hours a day. Can you then, completely take their responses as God’s word? Well, to begin with, you can start by looking at the current workforce’s preferred habits and what they are most likely to make use of. Every technology-backed solution you offer must be carefully looked into. For instance, if you are going to offer flexible working hours then are you sure they will embrace it and not fear opting for it since they may appear less committed to work as compared to those who punch in daily for work? In such a case you will need to tell them that they don’t run the risk of being called escapists. You need to give them a positive work environment even when they are within their home precincts. Similarly, you will have to weigh the pros and cons of online and offline training. You can’t just bag the best option knowing not how it might trigger reactions from your workforce.
The idea is to go digital, but with careful thought and planning.